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Cash,Cheques and Cards in France

French Money (Euros)

France, like most EU countries, uses the Euro or €. This is especially useful when visiting neighbouring countries as there is no need for any currency exchange and it is, therefore, easier to compare and understand prices.

We use a phone app to check exchange rates. There are several available. If you don’t want to be hit with data charges whilst in France, download the conversion rates before arrival and then use your app ‘offline’ on your travels. Update rates when you next find a WiFi network.

Cash

This is easiest way to make small to medium-sized purchases and is accepted everywhere.

However, if you are using cash, you do need to plan ahead as banks close over the weekend and also on public holidays (which can be in the middle of the week.) If you need cash and there isn’t a cashpoint nearby, you can be stuck.

When exchanging cash before you arrive, shop around for the best rates. Currency bureaux at travel hubs – airports, stations etc. - are the most expensive places to exchange money and you will not get a good rate. We find that ordering in advance from a currency service or bank gets you the best rates.

Whilst in France, use debit cards, not credit cards, to withdraw cash from cashpoints. See more in the Cards section below.

Travellers’ Cheques

If you are prepared with cash and cards then you shouldn’t need to take travellers’ cheques. These need to be exchanged for cash in a local bank, exchange bureau or in larger shops and hotels. Generally, the best exchange rates are through banks and the worst through hotels.

We haven’t used travellers cheques in France for many years.

Cards

Both types of cards have their advantages and disadvantages. Using them carefully will save you money.

Whichever type you use, the exchange rate will be set on the day of the transaction by the bank and you will not be able to shop around for a better rate.

Debit Cards

Use these for drawing cash from cashpoints. There is a fixed charge for each withdrawal of up to £1.75 per transaction so, if you are getting cash this way, do it as few times as possible. Also use debit cards at exchange bureaux as you will pay a fixed fee and not the percentage charge that is charged to credit cards.

As there is a charge for every transaction, don’t use cards for spending. Some banks are worse than others but they all charge a per transaction fee.

Credit Cards

If you are going to use a credit card, use it in a terminal to pay for goods and services. Be aware that many credit cards have an extra percentage (up to 3%) added to the bank exchange rate, called a load,  so  it can cost you more.

Instead, get a specialist travel card which does not load the exchange rate and can give you a better rate than travel bureaux. These do have higher interest rates for repayment, so pay these cards off in full when due.

Credit cards charge extra for drawing cash out of a cashpoint and then charge a higher rate of interest as well. Do not use them for getting cash. This also applies at currency exchanges too.

Other Tips

Pay in €

Many shops, hotels and restaurants, especially in towns, cities and popular attractions, will offer the choice to pay in £ or US$. Be careful as these prices can be very distorted to favour the business and not you.

Where possible, pay in € so you get the better price but always check first.

Stop the Block

As banks tighten up on fraud, they can often block a card if it is suddenly used overseas, especially if you don’t travel very often. This leads to frustrating (and costly) calls to the card company to unblock the card.

To help prevent this from happening, let your card company know you due to visit France and alert them to the fact that you will be making French transactions.

There isn’t a best time to buy Euros

Trying to predict where currency is going and the exchange rates is a highly skilled and well paid job in the financial industry. The experts don’t always get it right. In fact, most expect to lose most of the time. If they don’t expect to get it right, neither can you. Buy € when you it suits your finances and don’t tie your money up in a speculation.

Keeping your money safe on holiday.

Don’t lose out on holiday - keep your money safe using these tips;

  • Spilt your money up between members of your holiday party
  • Keep some cash hidden and locked in your car. If you lose it all when out, you will still have some emergency cash to use
  • Crime rates in rural France are very low but, nevertheless, be discreet. Don’t take out a wedge of notes in public view, especially if you are in a city and, particularly, if you are in Paris
  • Keep cash and documents, such as passports drivers’ licences, separate from each other

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